NOVEMBER 1996 · VOLUME 17 · NUMBER 11
L E T T E R S T O T H E E D I T O R
A s a regular and admiring reader of Multinational Monitor, I was surprised and disappointed by the article on Eritrea ("An African Star?) in your July/August issue. I have been previously heartened by various reports on the bold commitment of the Eritreans to self-reliance and independence from the dictates of foreign aid donors and even paternalistic non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Your quote from Teame Tewolde-Berhaw that "We cannot surrender the managing of our economy to others," should be the mantra of governments everywhere whose economies have been taken over by foreign financial interests at the expense of their own people.
Your article, however, went on to report that "Despite its emphasis on self-reliance, the PFDJ intends to support an export-oriented, outward-focused economy" with an emphasis on tourism and export of its natural resources. Your article went on to describe how it is selling off rights to natural resources and its public enterprises to foreign corporate interests and is nationalizing communally owned lands with the intent of facilitating their acquisition by private investors. Having just shed one colonialism, it seems Eritrea is now intent on embracing another.
My dismay was further compounded, however, when I reached the final paragraph of the story which offers hopeful encouragement to Eritrea in its effort to emulate the path of the Asian Tigers of export-led growth before democracy. I looked back to check who had written the story. I still find it hard to believe it was written by the same Robert Weissman who two articles earlier clearly and persuasively demonstrated why the Asian Tiger experience is not relevant to Africa. I am concerned that your offices may have been infiltrated by a World Bank agent who made a last minute alteration in the Eritrea article as it went to press and urge you to review your security procedures.
People Centered Development Forum
New York, New York
The July/August issue has stories on dams which might need some more investigation into the role of Quebec's giant utility, Hydro-Quebec, and the Canadian government. I know that Chinese officials have visited Quebec's massive James Bay project which was marked by racism against Native people and the destruction of a wilderness ecosystem on which the cultures of the Native people (Cree and Inuit) have depended for at least 5,000 years.
I don't know if Hydro-Quebec is officially involved with the Chixoy project, but the disregard for human rights and the natural world in this project is consistent with Hydro Quebec's operations in Quebec and elsewhere in the world (short of physical massacre). The Cree refer to Hydro-Quebec's actions and policies as "cultural genocide." One cannot be surprised that Hydro-Quebec has international offices in Nigeria (where the dictatorship has no regard for anyone's rights).
James J. Higgins
Energy Chair, Vermont Sierra Club